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Cannabinoids Show Treatment Potential for Traumatic Brain Injury, New Study Finds

Findings in a new research review indicate that cannabinoids possess therapeutic potential for traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

Cannabinoids may provide a potential treatment option for traumatic brain injuries (TBI), according to a new study published in the latest issue of Frontiers in Pharmacology. Researchers Lesley D. Schurman and Aron H. Lichtman came to the conclusion after reviewing the findings of preclinical studies assessing the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids to reduce the neural damage associated with TBI.

TBI’s are brain dysfunctions that develop following an outside blow to the head. Following the blow, the body releases harmful mediators like proinflammatory cytokines, which lead to oxidative stress, inflammation and excitotoxicity in the brain, putting the health of brain cells at risk.

Schurman and Licthman found evidence that cannabinoids can help prevent the brain damage caused by TBI’s by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for an array of body processes, including regulating balance in our body’s immune response.

Cannabinoids, like those found in cannabis, interact with the endocannabinoid’s system’s two receptors, CB1 and CB2, with the goal of helping the body achieve equilibrium. Previous research indicates that cannabinoids administered immediately following a blow to the head prevents the release of the harmful mediators that can lead to brain damage. According to the researchers, the abundance of CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the brain and periphery likely accounts for their ability to reduce neural damage in the brain.

“Manipulations of endocannabinoid degradative enzymes, CB1 and CB2 receptors, and their endogenous ligands have shown promise in modulating cellular and molecular hallmarks of TBI pathology such as: cell death, excitotoxicity, neuroinflammation, cerebrovascular breakdown, and cell structure and remodeling,” read the study.

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The researchers make note of the previous studies investigating cannabis’ major phytocannabinoids – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – and their effects on TBI pathology. Research has shown both THC and CBD have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties, and thereby improve the survival rates of brain cells following a traumatic blow to the head or cerebral ischemic event.

“The [endocannabinoid] system, through release of its endogenous ligands or by changes in cannabinoid receptor constitutive activity possesses promise in the treatment of diverse TBI pathway,” Schurman and Lichtman said, in the study’s conclusion.

Worldwide, traumatic brain injuries account for approximately 10 million hospitalizations and/or deaths every year. American football players are highly susceptible to suffering brain injuries, and a study last year found that more than 40 percent of retired National Football League players had signs of TBI.

Medical Marijuana Inc.’s subsidiary KannalifeTM Sciences holds two licenses with the National Institutes for Health for U.S. Patent 6,630,507 “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants.” The ‘507 patent describes the antioxidant and neuroprotective properties of CBD. Kannalife’s research team has examined the effects of CBD on oxidative stress and neurodegenerative-related disorders and is currently using the licenses to develop novel therapeutic drugs to treat CTE and hepatic encephalopathy (HE).

You can read Schurman’s entire study, “Endocannabinoids: A Promising Impact for Traumatic Brain Injury,” here.

Learn more about what previous research has found about THC and CBD’s effects on TBI’s by visiting our education page.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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